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Humanizing the Total Customer Experience

There’s a running joke at our agency about the famed industry “ecosystem slide.” You know what I’m talking about - that one presentation slide that attempts to visualize how every single consumer touchpoint plays a unique role, yet connects with every other touchpoint to form a cohesive customer experience. Maybe it’s a Venn diagram. Maybe it’s a table. Or, my personal nightmare, the “Beautiful Mind” approach– a bunch of floating platform icons with a web of lines connecting them all in one tangled ball of confusion. “Look!” we say. “This is your brand ecosystem! See how beautifully and simply it depicts the total customer experience?” “OK, John Nash,” our clients say, before dropping it into a desktop folder to gather digital dust.

 

Brand EcosystemAs marketers, it’s important to consider ecosystems, journeys, and the end-to-end customer experience. But these concepts can be hard to truly grasp when talking about them in the abstract, or out of the context of how an individual person experiences a brand and its products.

 

The reality is that in the digital age, our avenues of information are so diverse, our digital and physical spaces so entwined, that a customer journey is no longer linear or simple. At any given stage in the marketing funnel, a person might bounce around from Instagram, to billboard, to blog post, to text exchange and back in mere minutes. Even when this journey is simplified and beautifully designed to look at in aggregate, there’s a lack of realness to it– and a lack of true comprehension.

 

So how do we start to truly understand what the modern customer experience looks like without making our heads explode? Let’s get out of the abstract.

 

The AMP Strategy team is on a quest to humanize the total customer experience. Over the next several months, we’ll be doing first-person deep dives into the experience of shopping, purchasing, and returning across industries. We’ll map out real paths to purchase, identifying pain points and emotions along the way, to surface real industry insights and areas of opportunity– and share them right here on AMP’s blog.

 

Because at the end of the day consumers are human, and we need to understand them as humans. The true customer experience cannot be captured on a slide.

 

- Greer Pearce, VP of Strategy

 

Meet Our Humans

Greer

Greer Pearce, VP of Strategy

Outdoorswoman, jazz singer, tween culture obsessive

 

Ben

Ben Seldin, Strategy Director

Nike addict, political junkie, wanna-be foodie.

 

Elle

Elle Elderd, Associate Strategist

Savory over sweet, mixer of drinks and vinyls, runs on espresso

 

Jen

Jen Herbert, Senior Strategist

Literary fiction addict, almond croissant enthusiast, frequently-disappointed Chicago Bears fan

 

DJ

DJ Weidner, Strategy Director

Backyard grilling fanatic, year-round iced latte connoisseur, occasional salmon and halibut fisherman

 

james_herrera_new

James Herrera, Director, Experience Strategy

Life-long LA Dodgers fan, believer in the beginner’s mind, finds reading science non-fiction oddly satisfying

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What You Need to Know About Marketing to Generation Z

There's a new wave of influential consumers on the horizon, and now is the time to pay attention. This past month, our media team attended the Her Campus GenZology Summit where we learned how marketers can connect with Generation Z, an emerging demographic of rapidly evolving consumers. Whether your brand is primarily targeting Gen Z or trying to gain a foothold among younger consumers, these takeaways can help kickstart your Gen Z marketing strategy.  Who is Gen Z? Born in 1998 or later Digital natives and early adopters of technology Socially conscious and culturally diverse Establishing their independence: 80% of Gen Z makes their own purchasing decisions GEN Z’S CONSUMER BEHAVIOR Brand Discovery and Consideration Starts Close to Home New to adulthood and financial decision-making, members of Gen Z are thoughtfully developing their brand preferences. When considering whether to buy a new product or service, Gen Z is eager to learn about the brand and will consistently seek information throughout their consumer journey. Not all information sources are equally impactful, though – Gen Z primarily looks to their social circle to guide purchase decisions.  Drive Conversions with Community Gen Z strongly values social relationships, so it’s no surprise that these connections are also key purchase drivers. Gen Zers are most likely to be won over by recommendations from friends and family, as well as positive real-life experiences with brands. For marketers, a Gen Z-targeted media strategy should prioritize channels that have a trusted presence within their market.  What are some effective tactics? Social: Paid & organic social posts Content promotion: Sponsored content on sites with a large Gen Z readership High-impact creative: Eye-catching visuals that make your brand the topic of conversation is the cherry on top for earning Gen Z loyalty Freeform’s 6-week OOH campaign made a lasting impact by inspiring a wave of organic social engagement. Let’s Get Virtual: Consumer Trends in the Age of COVID-19 COVID-19 has affected every aspect of our lives, and social distancing poses a challenge to both community-seeking Gen Zers and the brands trying to reach them. However, digital platforms present innovative opportunities for Gen Z to stay connected during these difficult times. eCommerce and virtual experiences have also allowed consumer activity to stay strong.  Here are ways that brands can grow relationships with an engaged Gen Z audience:  Give Back: Be a force of good by contributing to the community and communicating with empathy and reassurance. Virtual Experiences: Host interactive virtual events that bring consumers together. Promote Self-Care: Food, clothing, and skincare products are popular purchases that help Gen Z feel uplifted while staying home. Steals and Deals: Encourage future IRL purchases with incentives like samples, coupons and loyalty programs – Gen Z is looking forward to shopping in person again!  SOCIALLY DRIVEN Utilizing Social in a Socially Distant Environment  While the future may remain uncertain, social media platforms have remained a constant in helping Gen Z feel connected. Pre-COVID-19, Her Campus reported that 51% of Gen Z college students spent 2 hours a day on social media, and 28% spent upwards of 3-4 hours a day.  Since then, there has been a surge in social media usage among Gen Z, as today’s state of social distancing has made maintaining relationships more important than ever. With this in mind, brands should leverage their social platforms to connect with the Gen Z audience in a meaningful and impactful way.  Specific Social Habits When it comes to social, Gen Zers have very specific habits unique to each platform, and brands should adjust their social media strategy accordingly. Instagram – Preferred Source for Brand Interaction Instagram allows for a wide variety of content to be produced and consumed, making it Gen Z’s preferred choice when it comes to brand interaction. Additionally, likes are no longer the main KPI on Instagram. Number of shares are equally as important and can lead to increased followers, helping to boost your brand’s overall success.  How can your brand increase its following? Post High Quality Content: Brands should post relatable, relevant and authentic content to drive increased engagement among the Gen Z audience. Interact With Your Audience: Replying to your audience when they comment or mention your brand goes a long way in making the Gen Z audience feel seen. Learn Their Language: Gen Z has their own way of communicating, so it is important to keep up with the new slang to better relate to this audience. Twitter – Personalize Your Brand Once fading in its appeal due to the rise of Facebook and Instagram, Twitter has once again become a highly relevant source of content for the Gen Z audience. From meme culture to article promotion and interactive polls, Gen Z is eager to consume relatable content on Twitter and feel as though your brand cares. How should your brand adapt its Twitter platform to draw Gen Z in? Understand You Are More Than A Company: Company accounts that take on a more personal approach resonate much more with the Gen Z audience. Gen Z wants to feel as though your Twitter handle is managed by an individual and not a buttoned-up corporation.  Reply and Retweet: Like Instagram, taking the time to respond to user mentions and replies can help your brand connect with its audience and grow its following. Facebook – Groups, Events, and Content, OH MY!  Facebook is still considered an important social platform for Gen Z, and is primarily used for three key purposes: How can your brand cater its marketing strategy based on each of these three purposes? Groups: Ensure your brand is consistently posting relevant updates and articles specific to your brand’s group pages to keep Gen Z engaged.  Events: Utilize Facebook to raise awareness around key brand events for greater interest and attendance. General Content: 76% of Gen Z utilizes facebook solely to consume content, so it is important to make sure your brand consistently posts high quality content such as videos and branded articles for increased awareness.  SnapChat – Mainly for Peer Interaction SnapChat is a hot spot for Gen Z. However,  they use the app mainly for peer-to-peer interaction and are less likely to engage with brands. Brands should focus their marketing strategy on social platforms that show stronger engagement among Gen Z, such as Twitter and Instagram.  TikTok – A New Opportunity for Consumer Interaction  TikTok is the latest craze among the Gen Z audience, used solely to consume and create video-specific content.  With roughly 1.5 billion downloads (more than Instagram and Facebook), TikTok is a key source in reaching the Gen Z audience. The 60 second video limit forces TikTok content creators to be innovative and impactful in a short period of time. Brands must follow suit by promoting short, yet impactful creative to stand out in such a fast-paced environment. TikTok offers a wide variety of advertising opportunities, allowing brands to pick and choose the most effective tactics for their specific marketing strategies. While like SnapChat, Gen Z is slightly less likely to engage with brands while scrolling through TikTik, your brand can still make an impression on this unique audience.  Influencer Partnerships: Brands should tap into influencer partnerships as they provide a less invasive and more organic way of putting your brand in front of Gen Z.  AUTHENTICITY MATTERS Authenticity: The Key to Gen Z’s Heart (and Wallet)  Gone are the days of the “perfect” brand. When it comes to Gen Z, they are much more interested in a brand that is “real” than a brand that portrays a “perfect” persona. They relate more to ads from micro-influencers than celebrities, and strive to find brands that have a sense of community. An easy way to begin creating this community is to invest time into strong community management. When Gen Z interacts with a brand on social media, they expect a response. Whether it’s commenting back or replying to/reposting an Instagram story, Gen Z wants to feel like they are a part of the brand’s community through social interactions, so community management is crucial. Influencers: The Trusted Voice Every day, a celebrity posts a #sponsored #ad for a product that influences people to scramble to find their wallets so that they can use the same product as their favorite celebrity. What’s more, the past few years have given birth to non-celebrities becoming influencers, and Gen Z is very receptive to these influencers. Some fast facts about Gen Z’s purchasing behavior based on a panel of Gen Z consumers: If your brand wants to reach Gen Z, utilizing Influencer Marketing is a good place to start. A few tips on how to develop an influencer strategy: Step 1: Instill A Sense Of Community Work with influencers who are open to attend local meet-ups or networking opportunities that are hosted by your brand, and that make the Gen Z consumer feel appreciated. They don’t want to feel like it is a simple transaction for your brand through the influencer. Step 2: Form Strategic Partnerships With Your Influencers Strive towards long-term partnerships. This not only establishes authenticity with the Gen Zers by letting them know that the influencer uses the product/service long-term, but also allows you to retarget top audience segments. You should also look to take a deep dive into the influencer’s audience when planning your campaign – just using their baseline stats only allows you to scratch the surface. Step 3: Create Premium Experiences with Influencers When possible, aim to continue the conversation with Gen Z and brand influencers through meaningful activations in relevant moments and environments that matter to Gen Z. Here, you should be adaptable; experiences don’t just have to be face-to-face. They can make just as much of an impact when they happen virtually, too. To successfully market your brand to Gen Z consumers, it’s clear that genuine connections matter above all else. With a mix of authentic messaging, strategic media planning, and an understanding of the Gen Z community’s values, brands can win their loyalty (and dollars) when it matters most.   

How to Evaluate if Influencer Marketing is Right for Your Brand Right Now

Anna Tremblay, Senior Manager PR & Influencer Relations Jennifer Carroll, Director PR & Media Relations May 27, 2o2o As our world continues to face lots of change, each level of the marketing funnel is changing and influencer marketing is no different. It is paramount that brands evaluate their influencer marketing efforts to ensure that it is an effective and efficient spend as budgets continue to shrink. Over the course of the last few months, we’ve been able to aggregate learnings from well-executed (and not-so-well executed) influencer programs from brands across many consumer categories. Prior to launching any influencer campaign, we believe that the performance of a four-step audit can help determine if influencer marketing is the correct approach for your brand at this time. By auditing the brand/segment, storytelling opportunities, potential partners and go-to-market messaging, we are able to build end-to-end recommendations that ladder up to overarching brand goals and KPIs while remaining sensitive to the current climate. Step 1: Brand & Segment Audit Does your brand/segment have something meaningful to contribute? The first step in our audit process is to identify the key brand product or service offering and the segment category it falls into based on consumer perception. Some questions that are helpful in identifying these offerings and segment categories are as follows: Is the segment category providing a service that is applicable to the current climate? - Example: Stay at home/lounge clothes everyone needs vs. High-end fashion. What value does this product bring to consumers? What sets your brand apart from other players in the space? - Here, you can leverage customer incentives and brand differentiators to help drive consumer consideration. Once you’ve established that the segment category is applicable and the product offering brings value to consumers in the COVID-19 era, you can move on to establish the potential storytelling opportunities for each key product offering. Step 2: Storytelling Opportunities What are the storytelling opportunities for this product or service? “Buy this product” messaging no longer works with consumers – particularly during a global pandemic. So, we have to get creative. During this stage of our audit, it’s important to identify all of the potential storytelling angles for your brand or product. Here’s what we recommend doing in order to achieve this: Establish a editorial calendar of tentpole moments. - These moments could include promotions, holidays, cultural moments, etc. Prioritize up-to-date editorial themes. - What are consumers going to relate to most right now? Determining the answer to this question will help your brand pinpoint winning messaging placements and strategies. Ensure storytelling angles are positive and uplifting. - Consumers get enough doom and gloom on the news today. Now is an opportunity for your brand to spin up some positivity in its messaging. Step 3: Potential Partner Identification Who are the partners that can relay this message with relatable authenticity? One of the most important (and fun) steps to planning an influencer program is sourcing partners to help tell your story. First and foremost, key customer demographics must be identified in order to create sourcing criteria. Influencer needs must also be determined during this step. Does your campaign require a tiered approach? Just one macro influencer? A network of micro-influencers? Answering questions like these will help in selecting the best possible partners for your brand. Leveraging an influencer sourcing tool to confirm key influencer audience metrics is paramount to connecting with the correct consumers and providing program ROI. Last but not least, brands must do their due diligence to ensure that selected influencer partners not only align with brand values, but that their online presence reflects these values. Step 4: Messaging Assessment Does our message need to be altered or tailored to the current climate? Now more than ever, it is incredibly important that both your brand and your influencer(s) do not come off as tone-deaf. We recommend taking the following steps prior to pushing content live in order to ensure that the content will be well received: Acknowledge the current climate without centering campaign messaging around it. - “Since we’re spending so much time at home...” or “These days, I love trying out new recipes…” are two solid examples of lead-ins influencers could use when discussing your brand or product. Be nimble and pivot as necessary. - Things change rapidly. In the time between content creation and posting, circumstances can change. This means it’s imperative for your brand to ensure that content stays relevant and gets messaged appropriately. Coordinate with influencers to determine tailored messages based on their knowledge of their content performance and audience. - Influencers know their audience better than anyone and know what will resonate with them – so why not ask them to help your brand? By auditing your process through the steps outlined above, any influencer campaign you work on can successfully meet consumers where they are with relatable stories and a product or brand that they can get behind. Check out the piece on Little Black Book Online: https://www.lbbonline.com/news/how-to-evaluate-if-influencer-marketing-is-right-for-your-brand-right-now

The Absence Of Sports Effects On Advertising

Guy Rancourt, VP of Media May 14, 2020 I miss sports – both personally and professionally – and I know I’m not alone. Those sentiments are echoed in conversations almost as frequently as you hear people say they miss seeing friends or just going out to eat. An unintentional consequence of COVID-19 is the realization of how much sports powers the advertising world. The absence of sports has thrown our marketing ecosystem into flux, and the ripple effect of canceling major sporting events is being felt across all mediums and all categories. In the short term, the loss of linear GRP’s, digital impressions and multi-platform marketing opportunities, not to mention the amount of unspent dollars freed up with these cancellations, is staggering. Countless marketers rely on the scale and platforms that events like the NCAA Tournament, professional sports seasons and the Olympics provide in order to showcase, launch and sustain their businesses. Removing these from the marketing equation is proving to be troublesome for many brands and agencies. Countless conversations, spreadsheets, flowcharts, meetings and revisions – all culminating in media plans of which sports play a major role. Poof! Gone. All for naught. But when they eventually come back this fall, what does that mean for the marketplace? It should be good news for brands and agencies. Many events have already been stricken from the 2020 calendar: the NCAA Tournament, Wimbledon, Tokyo Summer Olympics and The British Open, to name a few. While others have been postponed until later this summer and fall – NBA Basketball, NHL Hockey, Major League Baseball, The Masters, French Open, Kentucky Derby – many more still wait for their fates to be determined.  As the leagues and television partners continue their weekly dialogues around how and when they can resume play, there are countless rumors swirling about how each of them will land the plane:   Playing the NBA season at Disney World   Pushing the college football season to the spring of 2021   Sequester all MLB teams and staffs in Arizona and Florida   Eliminate NFL bye weeks to squeeze in games in the event of a delay While all of these options are up for consideration, they’re merely speculative solves until the country gets a handle on the Coronavirus. But the point here is that they are all working on solutions to resume play. Each already has mapped out countless scenarios and contingency plans to employ, once they are given the all-clear, in an effort to save their seasons. And they may all come back around the same time later this summer and into the fall. Clearly, there are more grave and consequential things going on in the world, so I do not highlight the lack of sports as the most pressing of challenges facing us. But make no mistake – the removal of sports has turned the marketing world on its head. According to Bloomberg, more than $2.5 billion dollars have been removed from the market this year already.  That’s billion, with a B.  We’re undoubtedly headed for a recession as businesses try to recover later this year and into next. We also know that production schedules for scripted entertainment will be impacted, causing delays in original programming. This will mostly affect prime time as their pilot season has been impacted the most – and who wants to invest heavily in what could be a light schedule of first-run scripted content this fall? As such, many are speculating that the sports marketplace will be flush with cash as the logical landing spot for all of those budgets. Another sellers’ market? Consider this: the back half sports schedule will be very condensed when all of these sports return. Imagine this very real scenario on November 15th: Sunday final of The Masters, followed by a National NFL window that then leads right into a World Series Game and Sunday Night Football. Talk about feast or famine. The point I’m making is that there should be a concentration of premium sports impressions in a tight window. Will there really be enough demand for this glut of sports GRP’s? Our industry is quick to say that sports – and football in particular – are mostly immune to market fluctuations. But can Madison Avenue afford to fund all of these hungry mouths this fall?  I say no, and I think brands and agencies are in store for one of the softest sports marketplaces in a long time. Even the mighty NFL shield could see dents in the armor for the first time in a long time.